Forbes – TOPLINE While travel has surged toward normalcy during other major holidays, data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows the number of Americans passing through airports actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels at some points over the July 4 long weekend.
The TSA checkpoint numbers updated Tuesday show just over 10 million people were screened between July 1 and July 5, marking a new pandemic record.
Overall, air travel was up nearly 200% from this time last year, when roughly 3.4 million people passed through security checkpoints amid still pervasive travel restrictions during the July 4 holiday.
This year’s travel numbers were still beat out by 2019’s, as more than 12 million Americans were screened to hit the skies before the onset of Covid-19.
However, on two days over the July 4 weekend, the number of people screened by TSA actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which is the first time this has happened since summer 2020.
Some 2.15 million people passed through security checkpoints on Thursday and 2.2 million on Friday, versus 2.09 million and 2.18 during the same days in 2019.
The 2.2 passengers screened on Friday was the “highest throughout since the start of the pandemic,” according to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, who announced the record in a tweet.
The U.S. has seen air travel recover and near pre-pandemic levels during other recent national holidays. TSA traffic again reached a new pandemic record over the Memorial Day weekend in July as more than 7 million people passed through security checkpoints, but still held about 25% short of the traffic recorded in 2019.
The record air travel over the July 4 weekend unfolded despite large numbers of travelers struggling with delays and cancelations. Two major airlines, American and Southwest, canceled flights due to staffing shortages. Meanwhile, other flights were impacted by tumultuous weather across the country.
The rebound of travel follows coronavirus-linked cases, hospitalizations and deaths plummeting in the U.S. As of Tuesday, the country is reporting an average of nearly 11,800 new cases and 194 new deaths each day. This is due to widespread vaccinations: nearly 70% of American adults are at least partially vaccinated. However, top public health officials have continued to urge caution due to the increasing prevalence of the more infectious delta variant, which has caused Covid-19 surges in other highly vaccinated countries and is quickly gaining prevalence in the U.S. On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans to “go the extra mile” and wear masks in areas with low vaccination rates.